Tom Skinner’s Science Project “First Set”

Horton Records, 2022

Oklahoma tribute project brings easygoing delights.

Tom Skinner's Science Project 'First Set'‘When singer, songwriter, Red Dirt music pioneer and Oklahoma Music Hall of Famer, Tom Skinner, passed away in 2015, it was his final wish that his musical collaborators carry on and continue the beloved weekly Wednesday Night showcases he founded.  The regular events bring together a diverse group of musicians for a unique live music experience. Multi-instrumentalist and Skinner’s longtime musical partner, Don Morris (Brandon Jenkins, Red Dirt Rangers, Jana Jae) not only took up that mantle, but gathered an all-star group of Oklahoma musicians to realize his friend’s dream.’

So reads the press release regarding this rather joyous, relaxed collection of classic Americana sounds, and it gives a nice introduction to ‘First Set’. This is a release which gives a nod to plenty that is good about American music; quality songs played by quality musicians, with a collective feel to it, and producing a record which hangs together in its own right.

There is a great groove to many of these songs, the sort of groove that makes you think of JJ Cale, dusty subtle blues. Occasional bursts of tasteful lead guitar à la Mark Knopfler colour some tracks, while the ghost of Jimmy LaFave haunts others (as well as Skinner, LaFave was another Red Dirt pioneer – Red Dirt music being the colloquial genre name for Oklahoman Americana). The influences are there, though always worn lightly – ‘Without You’ sounds like an outtake from Dylan’s later material, while ‘River of Time’ could be Wilco at their most country.

Anyone who enjoys Americana is likely to find this a hugely enjoyable outing, without being a challenging ride. Who needs to be challenged, anyway, when the offerings are this good? This is music to make your toes tap, your head nod in time, and to just feel like the world can leave its troubles at the door. Open up a tab, order up a beer, and let the good times roll.


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